Synchronous Fireflies and Summer Plans

I spent my birthday at the Elkmont campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). It's nestled into a beautiful and scenic part of the Appalachian mountains. I was invited along by a new friend from the lab to join them during a firefly viewing. I was very happy to find out that this particular part of the park has a special type of firefly that glows in synchrony with their fellow species. This event happens for only one week or so per year in this particular part of the GSMNP. There is another synchronous glowing firefly species in the Congaree NP in SC as well that many people know about. As I spent my first moments of being greater than 26 years old, I was watching the fireflies slowly match one another's glowing pattern in the dark woods. I was amazed. At first the lighting patterns were sporadic like a blanket of Christmas tree lights. Then, I began to see waves of lights flicker through the woods like the 'wave' in a stadium. We wandered in the sea of little lights and then got back to our campsite. I went deeply to sleep. The next day we hiked Jacob's Creek trail and I felt the cold water of a mountain side river. Some members of our hiking group dove in, but I was hesitant in my hiking gear. I will try next time! 

This internship is soaring by and I am chugging along with progress on my auxetic and electrostatic work. I have learned a lot from spending this time outside of my comfort zone. I always spent my undergraduate summers in or near Cambridge, MA. I have learned a lot from putting myself in an environment without all my little creature comforts. I had to pack my car with all the little priceless things I would need for the summer and I have gotten a Costco membership for the things I didn't bring with me.

I will be going to Boston for July 4th weekend and then Coyote will be coming with me to TN for a week plus a few days. I am looking forward to exploring some of the area with her. Later at the end of July, we'll spend time at her family's cabin in the Adirondacks. In August, I have plans to attend the SFF conference as well as a labor day weekend trip on the Cape. 

Life is good and things meld on by.

In Tennessee Now


On Sunday, I drove down to Tennessee from Lansing, MI. I drove to Oak Ridge, TN, through the fields of Ohio and the hills of Kentucky. I passed over I-75 gently in the slow lane. I leaned back in my seat and watched the terrain change around me. I thought about the podcasts playing on my stereo system and my thoughts drifted back and forth like the traffic in which I participated. When I entered TN, the highway rose to a ridgeline and I caught a glimpse of mountains and valleys.

I will be here for just over three months to facilitate an internship on auxetic structure fabrication. This is pertinent to my graduate studies. Auxetic materials are special because they have a negative poisson's ratio. That will occupy my mind during the work days to come. Outside of working hours, I will explore the beautiful and storied Great Smoky Mountains. When time allows, I will do a bit of traveling and enjoy the breadth of the region.

Last Saturday, before I started this trip, I attended a wedding. My old friend Eric married his partner and it was a nice ceremony. The weather was perfect. People smiled, cheered, drank, and danced the night away. I had a good time in MI with family. I wish I could stay long enough to clean up all the little messes and fix all the slightly ajar things, but life and career get in the way. so it goes

Halfway to Master


I'm back in Geneva, Switzerland, on a wonderful trip to visit Coyote. Last Friday, we went out on the town and later this week we plan to see a whole lot more of the city. Yesterday, we walked through the botanical gardens near her institute and smelled the fresh blooms on the flowers. The city is far more lively and upbeat now than when I visited in January. Back then, I was so nervous for so many reasons but now this trip is immediately comforting.

A few days ago, I was finishing up my second semester and parting goodbye temporarily with my colleagues at Physical Sciences Inc. Those terrifically busy days are shortly behind me now. And while I am here, I can focus on helping Antonia and practicing self care. I will admit that I was a bit overwhelmed with the multitude of things that I was obliged to accomplish prior to this trip. Despite the list of tasks, I was able to properly finish all these obligations to my own satisfaction. We'll see how those things have fared in time...

With a second semester of graduate school behind me, I am officially halfway to a Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering and approximately 1/5th of the way to the doctorate. While most of the truly difficult components of my doctoral program are still far in front of me, such as qualifying exams and paper presentations, I feel capable to have made it this far without a serious issue. It was disappointing to be unselected for my fellowship applications, but I know it will not decide my fate nor long term plans for my career and goals. 

I have this moment now to reflect and prepare. To heal a bit before I find a new challenge at Oak Ridge National Laboratory this summer. I look forward to the new experiences and opportunities to learn on my way.

Leap Year Benefits


People don't talk enough about leap day. It's a completely different experience than most days. Because of that added day, sunsets and sunrises on average in the month of February and March are thrown off by up to a minute! All those romantic moments staring off into the sunset and early mornings waking with the sunrise are displaced temporally. Many times now, computer scientists working on important systems for scheduling and planning have missed leap days, leading to potentially ruinous circumstances.

I will not waste my leap day this year. I plan to take full advantage of it and I will ensure my total utility this year equals at least (if not more than) 366/365 of that in a standard, non-leap, year.

I am on track. 

I have been running along the Charles river and eating well. No new cavities at the last dentist visit. I am spending time with friends and I have a few more ski trips left before the winter ends fully. I am looking forward to a warm summer in Tennessee and focus in all things of my life.

Things are pretty good to be honest. And it takes work, it's work I am doing my best on.


In the morning, there was a bit of chaos getting onto the lift. Coyote and I rode a bus and waiting in a hoard of Europeans for almost an hour. When we got to the mountaintop, we were stuck in clouds and I couldn't see more than a few feet ahead of me. After the first few runs, the clouds left and we were left in a bluebird paradise.

I forgot about my cough and sore joints for a moment and we were skiing in powdered sugar instead of mashed potatoes.

This is the good life.


Before the First Storm


I was at Market Basket earlier today and there is a storm coming tomorrow. I was lucky to find a parking spot in less than 5 minutes and there were no carts available when I walked in the store. Every single cart was in-use or out in the parking lot. Light pushing and noise everywhere. I walked back out to the parking lot and grabbed a cart from a corral. Inside, I slowly maneuvered from aisle to aisle waiting here and there as families and folks reached, bumped, quipped, and packed food into their bins, baskets, and bags.

I put myself in the mess, so I cannot complain. I stayed up late last night and spent it with good friends. Today is a peaceful day, no work to do right now. 

There's something fun about being in the store before the storm if you can get past how annoying it can be and the urgency of course. Everyone agrees with simple phrases like "this is crazy busy" and "wow, must be a big storm coming". It's a simple thing. And everyone knows the possibility that we all get snowed in tomorrow. It's decently probable. And that fact is also comforting in a weird way. Hopefully there are no bad accidents or loss of power, but knowing that mankind is still powerless against some force of nature provides me with cool humility.

I'm back from Michigan. I was there for the holidays, where I watched plenty of footballs, had a few brews, talked about trees and mundane things. Went to the Gilmore Car Museum and drove around Lansing. Life is good and I'm looking forward to a good 2024.

Resonant Shower Cavity and Aquarium in Monterey, CA


Jellys in the tank I took a photo of

Last night, I was humming in the shower of my cheap motel in Monterey. As I hit a low note in my little ditty, the volume of my song jumped substantially. I was a bit surprised, but thankfully I understood why this occurred. I had unintentionally found the fundamental mode's frequency for this shower. 

I should explain that the geometry of this shower is unconventional. The showers in this cheap motel are 6'6" tall, 3' wide, 4'6" long tiled rectangular prisms with a thin glass door on hinges. It's a dark, claustrophobic shower cavity and a decent approximation of a Helmholtz resonator.

The fundamental mode of a rectangular cavity depends on the two larger dimensions and if you know the speed of sound in the box, you can calculate that frequency. I found it to be about 178 Hz. I was humming the song shown below and the low note that caused the resonation was E on the 2nd standard octave. This is about 82.4 Hz. 82.4 times 2 is pretty close to 178 Hz, so I reckon my estimates on the dimensions of the shower chamber are off.

Anyways, it's interesting to think about how air carries sound and how one might manipulate that fact to change the volume. 

Photos from the aquarium:

The acoustic frequencies of importance

Some notes on resonant frequencies

Synchronous Fireflies and Summer Plans

I spent my birthday at the Elkmont campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). It's nestled into a beautiful and scenic p...